Where’s My Puppy?


Coming home to your child is so much fun, isn’t it? If your child is under 10, they are usually so happy to have you show up at the door, they often come to you! “Hi! Where were you? What are we going to do? Can you feed me? Wanna play? Come see the bone I dug up!” Having an elementary schooler or preschooler is like coming home to a healthy golden retriever puppy. They nearly knock you down in their exuberance to be with you.

Coming home to a tween or teenager is another experience entirely! An hour or so later they may wander into the kitchen and say, “When did you get home? Is there anything to eat?” Or, they may not have noticed that you weren’t home in the first place. If they do notice, they’re most likely to express their impatience “Where have you been?!” and follow it up with a complaint or demand. Having a tween or teen can very much mimic owning an opinionated, cranky (but hungry) Siamese cat.

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This transition from exuberant puppy to cranky feline causes a lot of parent distress. After all, it’s not like we get any warning. Oh sure, our friends with older kids tried to tell us. But, seriously, their kids? Ours are never going to be like THAT.

A stark difference between owning a cat and puppy is that cats are harder to train. But train them we must, since we can’t return them to Animal Friends and try a nicer one. Although, on that note I’ve heard you can get an exchange student from another country in high school and then try to ship yours off to an unsuspecting family in Sweden or Mexico who will probably have pretty low expectations of an American teenager… Anyway, since we are likely to live with them for the better part of six years of cat-ness, we can’t give up on them or they will at once flounder AND terrorize the household.

It’s not possible to train a cat the way one would train a puppy. Puppies respond well to rewards and punishments (in theory). Cats respond to negotiation and some diplomacy, when they can be bothered to respond at all. Cats sense respect. Even when we don’t appreciate their behavior, if we have real love and respect for them they are far more likely to comply with our terribly unreasonable and annoying requests. Yell at a cat and it will stare at you like you have three heads, before putting in its headphones.

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The trick to coming home to a tween or teen is to embrace your cat-owning existence. And to hold in mind the strange truth that a well-cared-for and disciplined cat will eventually change into an adult human you can admire and respect. Even better, one that appreciates you and comes to the door to meet you.

About the writer

Dr. G (Deborah Gilboa, MD) is a family doctor, mom of 4, international speaker, author and TV personality. She developed the “3 R’s of Parenting” to empower parents to raise respectful, responsible, and resilient kids.Her new book, Get the Behavior You Want, Without Being the Parent You Hate is available on Amazon.com. Dr. G focuses on tools and skills, not dishing out advice we wouldn't want anyway. Find her and her humor on Facebook and Twitter, and see her in action on YouTube.


TheUrbanMum 5 years ago

Wonderful post – except – my 8 year old is already a cat – and he has a cat. So the two of them sit on the couch and just look at the rest of us.
The baby Puppy Boy and his Dad and I look forward to the 8year old morphing into an Adult Human; but what about the cat?…x

Papa Joe 5 years ago

The analogy is truly on target. The part that hits me most is puppy behavior involves a lot of licking and frolicing (not always in fun), and the six boys we know and love from 9 down to almost 3 provide every bit of experience anyone could ask for. They are a joyful trip, a sometimes exasperating experience, and always showing signs of the brilliant adults we hope they will become.

    Dr. G 5 years ago

    Thanks, Pop!

Queenie40 5 years ago

I find your comparisons to be spot on! My 10 yr old, resembles a cocker spaniel puppy, however. I anticipate him jumping up and peeing the floor when he returns from spending a month and a half with my parents over the summer. Whereas my 17 yr old, is a 17 yr old Siamese cat. I anticipate him merely walking past me while brushing up against my leg as his mild display of affection – before he continues texting to his fellow cats to let them know he is back in charge of the family home.

    Dr. G 5 years ago

    Yes! Cat-cats and teen-cats both have the disturbing trait of looking at the adult as if you are an unexpected and unwelcome guest that has shown up in their home. Unless of course you are providing food. In which case you are tolerated for the 3 1/2 minutes they are inhaling said food.

Reading (and chickens) 5 years ago

So what you’re saying is that I need to find an exchange family for four to six years, yes?

    Dr. G 5 years ago

    You know, you can do that! I have a friend who regularly accepts a European Exchange cat to play with and annoy and distract her domestic cat for a semester and then has a cat-free home for 3-4 months when her cat ventures to European pastures.

Carolyn 5 years ago

Funny comparison, and I could see it!
We’re at the stage where my daughters (under 3) are very excited when Daddy comes home, or when I return from an afternoon out.
Not looking forward to the “Siamese” stage

    Dr. G 5 years ago

    Carolyn, this makes me appreciate my exuberant, messy, loud puppies more than I would if I didn’t realize it would change someday.

Book4MyDaughter 5 years ago

I love the comparison. I never thought about a young child like a puppy—and I definitely have one of those with my 6yo son. My daughter is 11, and I would have to call her a kitten. She still wants to play with me, she loves being entertained, but occasionally she bares her claws at me. I will be keeping this analogy in mind as she gets further into the tween years, and into her teens. Thanks!

    Dr. G 5 years ago

    And cats can be lovely, just need different handling, don’t you think?

Galit Breen 5 years ago

Hee! Love the analogy. :)

    Dr. G 5 years ago

    Thanks Galit!

Headacheslayer 5 years ago

Having a cat and a retriever puppy (daughter 16, son 9) this is such an apt description! You nailed the teen right on the head. Teens can smell fake a mile away.

Awesome post, thank you :)

    Dr. G 5 years ago

    Yes, I own dogs currently but have to say that (on average) cats may be smarter. They are certainly more discerning!

Tinne from T and T 5 years ago

Good thing I own a cat then. We named him Atilla and he lives up to name so I consider myself wel prepared for my daughters teenage years.

    Dr. G 5 years ago

    You are more prepared for teen parenting than most if you have a warm spot in your heart for a creature aptly named Atilla!

Cate 5 years ago

Perfect analogy.
My ‘cats’ stay in their rooms until I have to leave and they meow/whine that I am never home….How would they know?

    Dr. G 5 years ago

    Right. Cats (teens) are many wonderful things – often brilliant, sensitive, occasionally filled with empathy, great at self-care – but almost never logical.

Jessica 5 years ago

Why can’t my puppies turn into dogs? I don’t like cats. Sigh.

    Dr. G 5 years ago

    Jessica, I feel you. And I think that, on rare occasions, child puppies can pass through the teen years with hints of Golden Retriever showing through. The real trick is to hold out for the awesome adult you’ll get at the other end of the process!

Alison@Mama Wants This 5 years ago

Good to see you here Dr G!!

I had cats for years, so I guess I should be well-equipped for when my son becomes a tween right?

Who am I kidding? He’s not even 2 yet and already, he doesn’t listen to me!

    Dr. G 5 years ago

    Thanks for the tip that had posted Alison! It is nice to run into friends no matter where I go on the web…

    And I think you have your son’s number. You know he cares, he is just giving you cat-practice!


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